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Dribble like — Dribble Academy: Empowerment through play

Pradyut. Image Courtesy — NBA
Pradyut Voleti Director — Dribble Academy. Image Courtesy — NBA

Dribble Academy is an NGO that has introduced basketball to more than 3000 underprivileged kids. Basketball is used as a method of holistic development in Dribble Academy. Impacting lives, that’s what Dribble Academy stands for. Dribble academy was started with just two bamboo sticks and a ring but now the athletes of dribble academy have been part of the Jr NBA World program and many athletes got the scholarship in international schools.

Pradyut Voleti is a basketball skill development Trainer and Founder of Dribble Academy. SportsARM would like to congratulate Pradyut on creating the Rucker park of Noida and also we are glad to have Pradyut for an open discussion.

The discussion topic is the role of technology and upcoming trends of technology in basketball in India.

My experience was really good and I fell in love with the game very early. The credit goes to the coaches, the entire team, and seniors, who always motivated me to play better. I have represented Mayo College, played for Delhi state, played for Bandra YMCA. I was lucky to have an interesting and dynamic experience in basketball. Being passionate about the game, I felt to contribute more towards the development of basketball in India and that’s what dribble academy is all about. Dribble Academy is for anyone who loves basketball and is passionate about the game. We develop athletes in a holistic way and I believe that a sport can teach many great values to the kids at the right age. We help players develop their game.

Now being a basketball coach what are your suggestions that could have made your journey better?

To be honest, it’s an overall ecosystem in which every stakeholder has to play its role effectively. It’s the entire ecosystem that comes to play and needs to upgrade. How often school tournaments are conducted? Do all players get exposure? Does every school host a tournament? We should work on the coach’s capacity building every year. All schools prioritize building teachers capacity in academics, how seldom do we hear about sports teachers workshop or finding a consultant to help sports coach with their coaching, this is something schools need to take up which is important for the development of the sports ecosystem, as soon as that happens, we will cross a milestone of understanding that sport is not something just for a face value. We have to make sure that all children are actively participating and equal opportunity to compete is offered. We have to focus not only on coaching development but player development also. The entire system needs to come together to make India a sporting nation.

Instrumental roles have to be played by every school for a better sports ecosystem. Schools are the stepping stone for any athlete to start inculcating a sport. Schools often evaluate sports for a year and are vividly dependent on the number of laurels or trophies brought in the school rather than working on grassroots development.

What evaluation criteria do you suggest which can create an impact?

Evaluation should never be done based on tournaments won and laurels brought in. It should be more focused on how many children are actively participating in sports. For example, a school should have an in-house league where on weekends children are competing in informal leagues. It needs to be there. One more evaluation is about how many children are getting better in the game? How many children are progressing? Are children enjoying the coach’s coaching philosophy? Do children feel if they are exposed enough to practices or enough competitive exposure? These are a few certain ways for schools to evaluate sports.

What was your key ingredient for a sustainable and progressive model of dribble academy?

One of the key ways for making an effective program is to find the right collaborators who have a passion for the game or are alumni of the game. If you pitch a program the right way and with the right intent, people will definitely support it. Maybe someone working who was a basketball player 10 years back might help you by sponsoring food for the tournament. Audience and stakeholder gathering do play a huge role in a sustainable and progressive model. We should organize a tournament at the right time considering the availability of everyone. For example, the entire school should come and watch the match if any inter-school event takes place. The fan following cannot be underestimated. Audience engagement plays a huge role in the growth of any sports. That is why tournaments, home and away games, need to be conducted on weekends. We need to involve parents and the surrounding community to create awareness which helps in providing great support to athletes and surely increases participation.

How did you cope up during the pandemic for your academy?

It’s been a unique situation for everyone. We had HCL Foundation as a corporate partner helping us with mobile recharges, dry rations, basketballs, uniforms for all our athletes. We conducted online sessions where 30–40 students were actively involved and coaches & volunteers from America were teaching dribbling, shooting, passing during the sessions. Our main goal was to be creative during the pandemic. We conducted online competitions where our athletes wrote essays about their favorite NBA player, talked and discussed their basketball idols, watched highlights of the NBA games. We tried to do a little bit of everything by covering a few academics sessions as well. Even during such time, we continued to give back to the community.

Basketball is one sport that is progressing at a rapid pace in terms of technology. Professional basketball is a data-driven sport now. Being part of grassroots, if you were to develop a technology for the grassroots academy in India, what would it be?

That’s an interesting one, we need to have a technology for breaking down practices or games into highlights, identify the key areas to be worked upon during practice sessions. Many companies are providing such features. For example, Crossover is a firm that is run by an Indian in the USA. In India, such technologies can help the development of athletes and even coaches. This can play a huge role. Another important area is recording statistics of players during practices and matches like the number of rebounds, blocked shots, assists, etc. In national tournaments, it is happening to an extent but we need this in grassroots to develop grassroots. Dribble Academy is planning to launch a basketball training application where the athletes can check various drills, learn drills, check videos for various levels like beginners, intermediates, advanced, and put down their statistics.

Thanks to you, your athletes have been part of Jr NBA programs, got scholarships in top schools. What would be one advice you would like to give to other aspiring coaches?

The key advice is to be hungry to learn the game. A lot of knowledge is available and accessible very easily these days. One has to identify what is good and wrong for his players. Work on your basics regularly and keep watching professional basketball. The game has really evolved which can help a coach to understand the different dynamics and kinds of players that are playing today. If you have to nurture the athletes, you need to watch and observe the top athletes in the world so that you know what you want to achieve and develop in terms of levels. A lot of people are not hungry enough to go to depth. One needs to be really a basketball nerd to really start coaching the game and to be effective with coaching. There are many coaches but only a few can make you fall in love with the game and get your attention as a coach. There is an option to go abroad if you have funds and get experience from top coaches from the USA, Canada, Spain, Lithonia, Serbia and learn a lot about basketball from a fundamental standpoint. You won’t get a degree to help you get a better job but that doesn’t matter because you will come back much stronger. Try to identify what you want to achieve and work actively on it.

Basketball is a way of life, TedX Video. Courtesy — Youtube

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